love British mysteries. True, they are not realistic: more an exercise in cerebration than realistic criminal investigation. It is a sort of magic trick-literary sleight of hand. We try to guess - without success - "whodunit"; and we are delighted when in the last chapter, the detective tells us how the trick was performed.
Ngaio Marsh is one of queens of British crime fiction, up there with the likes of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and P.D.James. And she writes much of the same type of mystery. A murder takes place in a closed setting, with just the right amount of suspects to make it interesting and a victim against whom everybody has a grudge. I confess that, being a diehard Christie fan, I neglected most of the other mystery writers during my youth, and am just now discovering Ms. Marsh.A Wreath for Rivera
is the classic British Crime story at its best. There is the eccentric peer, who wants to play drums in the jazz band and is the prime suspect; the sleazy Mexican piano-accordionist in the same band who wants to marry his stepdaughter but unfortunately ends up on the slab; the French wife of the Lord who wants to protect her flighty daughter from the villainous libertine; and the obligatory love triangle. The action is played out during a single night and day, and the novel sizzles ahead. It's an incredibly fast read.
I had a complaint against an earlier novel by Ngaio Marsh that I saw the solution coming, so I felt let down, even though the story was good. Well, here she has redeemed herself. The thing was staring me in the face, but the red herrings were so good that slowly the eye was taken away from the hand - the classical trick of magicians. So in the end when all was revealed, I was kicking myself for not seeing it: in fact, I had considered the possibility in the beginning, but discarded it as the story progressed.
I confess this is not much of a review, but I cannot go further without revealing secrets. And I have not mastered the method hiding spoilers in-between.